Book Review: The End of Overeating

The End of Overeating

The full title here is The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite and in this book former FDA Commissioner David Kessler blends together such disparate fields as biology, psychology, marketing, and sociology to help explain why so many Americans are so fat. The main culprits, he argues, are precisely engineered “hyperpalatable foods” that lead many people into a syndrome of behaviors that he groups together under the term “conditioned hypereating.” Which is a term that, frankly, sounds ridiculous, but he makes a really good set of arguments to go along with it.

I really like the fact that Kessler draws upon so many different fields to explain his thesis. He starts off exploring the world of modern industrial foods and goes into how these products have been meticulously designed to have just the right balance of sugar, fat, and salt to act on the biological and psychological levers that get you to not only get you to eat them, but to crave them and to gorge yourself on them to the point of overeating. He also describes how a lot of food that you may think of as “whole” have already been pre-processed more than you’d guess. This stuff is incredibly eye opening, and the details that Kessler provides on how these food-like products are developed and delivered (packaging and presentation matter, too) really made me not want to ever set foot inside an Applebee’s again. The big food corporations are downright insidious in their manipulation, but ultimately we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Later in the book Kessler attempts to formulate a plan for readers to follow in order to end this cycle of overeating, but this part fell kind of flat to me since most of the advice that he spends pages and pages giving can really just be boiled down to “put down the fork, fattie.” Still, I appreciate his NOT veering into touchy-feelie territory when dispensing diet advice, and I think that the most useful thing he does in the whole book is the expose on industrial food contained in the earlier parts. That knowledge alone has made me less likely to indulge in those manufactured substances simply because I now view them with the same jaded attitude as I view TV commercials for a particular brand of blue jeans or a billboard for a particular sports car. Those things are less food and more some unnatural thing, some product cobbled together from sugar, fat, and salt. And they’re simply a lot less appealing viewed in the light that Kessler shines upon them.

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